My RSS feeds tell me that there’s a scandal in the U.S. right now over a prominent personality tweeting a comparison of an African American advisor to Obama with an ape.
I had my own small taste of what it is like to be on the receiving end of such a comparison a few years back when I was visiting China. It happened when I was somewhere in the middle of the mainland (certainly away from coastal regions like Shanghai and Beijing where foreigners were not an uncommon sight), in Wuhan province I think. I was sitting with my Chinese friend in a large and crowded cafeteria and was slightly amused to notice that so many of the other diners appeared to be focusing their eyes on me. I assumed the reason was that I was the only white Caucasian in the room. I could not help wondering how often any of these people had ever seen a non-Chinese person “in the flesh” before. I mentioned my thoughts to my Chinese friend whose reply took me aback: I was told they were staring at my hairy legs and arms; I was told that they were thinking that I looked like a monkey.
I confess that that comparison took me aback for a moment. I laughed, but something deep down inside me was not laughing. Did I not belong to a race that historically compared others to subhuman species? That’s what “we” did to “them” — what was the real source of the ugly feelings I was feeling deep down inside at that moment?
That was the first time I had been in a country where I was the racial minority figure and being compared with a wild animal. In Australia I had become accustomed to hearing of certain ignorant whites comparing other races, including Asians, to a species less than human. Here I was in China getting a small taste of the tables being turned.
I was able to laugh it off, though, because I had no reason to suspect there was anything more than innocent curiosity and analogy in the minds of my Chinese neighbours. I can’t imagine how I would have felt if I suspected they all thought I was literally a less evolved animal.
Well that’s what I was taught by the creationist men of God when I was part of their world. Wings had to work perfectly the first time or what use were they? So went the rhetorical question and we were all shook our heads in disbelief at how foolish people of the world were for thinking otherwise.
But a couple of nights ago I could not resist following the build up to watching David Attenborough’s new program, The Empire of the Ants. The catch line that intrigued me was the promise to show how some ants had learned to cooperate with others who were not genetically related to them. (Others, true to expected form, fought unrelated groups to the death for territorial control.) The whole program was absolutely fascinating (as most of Attenborough’s docos are) but one episode in particular thoroughly amused me. . . .
Queen ants about to fly away to establish a new colony are heavy with fat reserves and swollen ovaries and have sprouted wings just for the new occasion — their maiden flight to mate then start a new colony. They climb to the top of a plant to get some height for a take-off, but often times they make complete fools of themselves trying to make respectable use of their wings. We are shown footage of queen ants starting lift off but quickly tilting backwards or sideways and falling back down to the ground. Why didn’t God give them wings (and the instinctual know-how using them) that worked and got their heavier bodies up and away the first time?
It’s not as if they would need the wings afterwards. Once they had found their new space they had no need for the wings anymore and naturally wanted to get rid of the encumbrances. Again amusing footage showing the poor things struggling to dislodge their “back-packs” with nothing but legs! God lacked the forethought to arrange at least two of those six legs for that purpose. Those queens were obviously struggling with even more difficulty than a child trying to figure out how to dry its back after a bath.
Hello Vridar, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again. I’ve been far afield exploring new ideas and old. Time to leave self-indulgence aside for a moment and return to share a few of them. (Though my hiatus was not all self-indulgent insofar as some of my time was also taken up exploring new ways to be actively involved in various causes that I care about.)
Marcus Ranum describes himself as “a computer security specialist, consultant, gamer, crafty artist, photographer, soap and cosmetic experimenter, and all-around surrealist” but whatever one makes of that we all owe him a huge thank you for the enormous effort he made to take on point by point Sam Harris’s justification of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, most recently on display on the Gaza border while leaders congratulated themselves on the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. I have attempted to take on Sam Harris’s arguments in small bite-sized morsels, addressing just one or two salient details at a time. But Marcus Ranum has had the tenacity, the patience, the stamina, to take up each one of Sam Harris’s points that he made in another one of his rambling, contradictory, mealy-mouthed justifications for any bloody action taken against Muslims on Israel’s border. (“Mealy-mouthed” because he will drop in contradictory phrases in hopes you won’t notice the barbarism implicit in his words and that will enable him to protest that you were “taking him out of context”. Marcus R dissects it all leaving Sam H stark naked in the end.) See
Bookmark the page now but be sure to return to it when you have a good hour to digest it slowly as it deserves. Needless to say, my complaint is not personal. Sam Harris is a nobody who is given way too much publicity for no clear reason as far as I am concerned. My concern is that Sam Harris is articulating the arguments that are all too common everywhere else and whose assumptions and inhumane values, along with outright ignorance, bigotry, not to mention simple logical deceit, need to be addressed and smacked down.